When Failure Overwhelms Your Soul

It doesn’t take a perfectionist to tell the tale of what it’s like to fall, although we often are most drawn to those stories. The heartbreaking, heart wrenching details spilling out of the mouth of the most privileged, most honored, and most talented grip us tenderly. If they can fall, then so can we, and we are both sobered and encouraged by their mistakes.

But it’s a whole different experience when we fail. When we fail, we know what it’s like to stop breathing. To stop relating. To be so covered in shame and guilt that even hiding from the world is not enough. A lifetime of self-loathing and self inflicted punishment may work. May, that is, if we can find the courage to get out of bed.

Addicts might know the in’s and out’s of this process most. If a saint is just a sinner who falls down and gets back up, then the alcoholics, and drug addicts, and sexually addicted, and codependent among us might just be our greatest saints. They fail. And they start again. They build. They destroy. And then they build again, inner muscles screaming out in pain for the release of their humiliation. I am most honored to watch them stand, even if its time and time again.

But it doesn’t take an addict to know that failure rips through the heart of all that you think you are. Failure is the opposite of everything you work for; everything you believe; everything you want. Failure is the accuser who comes in the middle of the night to decree: Unworthy! Unholy! Unimportant!

But what if it were not so?

What if our failure is an invitation? What if every crash, every devastating mistake, every blown opportunity is not a chance to be removed from the world, but a clear picture of exactly every thing we really are.

What if failure doesn’t say that you lost your humanity, but that you reaffirmed it?

Because that would say that humans are weak enough to fail, but so intricately woven together that they’re not stopped by failure. That as humans, are story is one of overcoming — even overcoming ourselves. That we can get back up and try again because we’re designed to.

It would say that the beauty of humanity lies not in our perfection, but our unwillingness to submit to shame. It would imply that our dignity and worth call out and declare us as sacred creatures, apart from our behavior.That no accusation stands up to who we really are.

It would remind us that our walk — our journey — is one of choice. That we are somehow different in this galaxy of galaxies because we seek and search to make things better, and more peaceful, and that we seek to rebuild. That our consciousness and our brain are most than spiritual and biological creations, but movements that are calling for the good, even when we can’t quite reach or fulfill it ourselves.

Because if we could accept that our failure means that we’re part of the whole, and that we need both forgiveness and to forgive, justice and to make reparations ourselves, and both to grant and receive mercy, then we might come into the wholeness of what we were meant for — and what sets us apart.

And that, that just might be what we need.


*Picture: The Humanity By Lamis Dachwali

**I need to credit an unlikely source for sparking this thought process. The quote “You didn’t lose your humanity, you reaffirmed it” was said in an episode of Startrek Voyager years ago.